LOS ANGELES, March 6, 2014 – Colorado did an early victory dance last week after the State predicted it will receive $134 Million in tax-and-fee revenue on newly-legalized marijuana sales.
Forgive me for being blunt but before everyone passes around a fat one to celebrate on this Ash Wednesday, we ought to take a closer look at the unintended consequences of drug legalization in this country.
Despite all the fiscal suggestions that legalization will save the various states, counties, municipalities and law enforcement precious resources through reduced surveillance, enforcement and incarceration, there are an inordinate number of criminal, societal and public health costs that will actually increase due to pot legalization.
First, a white paper from the California Police Chiefs Association’s Task Force on Marijuana Dispensaries suggests that even the legalization of “medical marijuana” dispensaries nearly a decade ago in California served as a catalyst for serious crimes including violent attacks, armed robberies and murder. In El Cerrito, California – just outside of Los Angeles – city officials voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries after a 19-page report surfaced detailing a rise in violent crimes surrounding pot-dispensing facilities.
Across the State, the California Police Chiefs reported an increase in organized crime, poisoning (both intentional and unintentional), and an increase in violent gang activities with legalization of medical marijuana. The law enforcement report also cited “other adverse secondary impacts” including increased traffic, drug deals and “scalping” of lower-priced goods just outside of dispensaries, exposure of marijuana to underage youth in neighborhoods where dispensaries are located, and even an increase in electrical fires in residential homes due to equipment and lighting for marijuana growing – all which impact the public safety. What’s alarming to me is that this spike in crime occurred with the introduction of medical marijuana to a very narrow margin of the population – this doesn’t even include the broad offering to the masses which States such as Colorado recently approved.
In addition, there is scientific evidence to show a damaging effect of weed on individual health. All too often, progressives cite that their policies are “for the children” – but in this case, pot proponents don’t take into account the problems stemming from rapidly-growing marijuana usage among youth. While States have established the age of 21 for legal marijuana usage, teen usage is on the rise. The University of Michigan reports that weed usage among high school teenagers has hit a 30-year high. This poses a problem because health risks for teens include slower brain development, loss of memory, loss of up to ten IQ points, mental illness, depression (which can lead to increased teenage suicide) and longer-term addiction leading into adulthood.
There are negative health side effects not only for teens, but for adults as well. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports negative effects on adult pot smokers – specifically, cardiopulmonary risks including a raised heart rate by 20 to 100% within three hours of smoking pot, and a nearly five-fold increase of a heart attack within one hour of smoking pot, an occurrence which increases even more in older adults and individuals who already posses cardiac risks such as high blood pressure. Whether it be an adult or an underage child, all of these side-effects of pot will be paid for under yep – you guessed it – ObamaCare, which is ultimately funded by you and me.
Lastly, just as drug dealers promise big, politicians peddle those promises, too. I predict the fiscal windfalls will prove not to be what they are promised. I predict that ten years down the road, the combined increase in criminal activity, addiction, rehabilitation costs, and social costs to our youth and our collective health will end up being greater than any revenues and savings brought on by legalization. Even with the positive news in Colorado, even democrat Governor Hickenlooper set aside a whopping $75 Million for prevention and youth addiction programs – that is more than HALF the taxes and revenues expected to be collected overall in that State through legalization. Quite a hefty penny which calls into question whether the revenues are truly worth all of the other unintended costs which must be balanced.
I realize all of these arguments might make me a prude in today’s increasingly “if it feels good, do it” society which can be traced back to Bill “I did not inhale” Clinton. But I believe when it comes to drug use we must stand on priciple, for the love of God. And I mean literally – for the love of God. The reason being, our country was founded as one nation under God on principles of righteousness and goodness. As Republicans who represent the right, I believe we have sold out our principles for the sake of attracting votes (which if you look at the last two Presidential Election results, didn’t work, by the way).
We must learn from history and we must not forget that an unapologetic culture of drugs and debauchery in Rome ultimately led to the downfall of that civilized society. You see, my ultimate concern lies not in the aforementioned health-related and fiscal arguments against the use of marijuana, but in the dumbing down” of an electorate and society in general. With scandals such as Benghazi, NSA wiretapping, and IRS targeting do we really want a society that pays less attention, not more?
Simply put, legalized marijuana is the wrong prescription for American society.